Approximately nine million American children over 6 years old are considered obese according to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Overweight children are becoming an epidemic. Children are beginning to get diseases and health problems only previously seen in adults. Ten years ago, it was unheard of a child being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, now it's becoming a regular occurrence. Obesity in children is also being linked to apnea, high cholesterol, liver disease and asthma.
The question is why; why are so many children overweight? There are no clear answers, each child's situation is different, and there are many factors and angles to look at. Some claim overweight parents beget overweight children, while others argue nurture not nature is at fault.
According to the American Obesity Association it is a combination of both; however, some things like the amount of physical activity and eating habits can be changed. These are some of the factors contributing to childhood obesity.
- Lack of Physical Activity. Children spend more time in front of the television, computer and video console and less time playing sports, riding bikes or chasing butterflies. According to an article on MSN Encarta the average child spends 27 hours a week in front of a television.
- Poor Eating Habits. Children develop poor eating habits by eating high calorie foods while watching TV and eating when they are not hungry.
- Environment. Studies show that children s exposure at home and their lifestyles may encourage and discourage eating habits. These factors may include over exposure to advertising for fast food, poor parental examples or socioeconomic status. Low income families are more likely to buy cheap, unhealthy, processed foods as opposed to healthy, natural foods.
From WebMD and a British study, these are a few early signs that may indicate a child could be obese by age seven.
- Parental obesity
- Higher birth weight
- Spending more than eight hours watching TV when 3 years old
- Sleeping less than 10.5 hours per night when 3 years old
- Larger size in early life
- Rapid weight gain in the first year of life
- Rapid catch up growth between birth and 2 years
- Early development of body fatness in the preschool years (before age 5 6 years, when body fat should be increasing)
This is a relatively new epidemic with no simple vaccine. There are no answers about How to cure child obesity, only suggestions and guidelines. News broadcasts and dietitians have been talking about the rise in child obesity for years. Many schools are beginning to encouraging active and healthy lifestyles by removing soda and candy machines from hallways and providing USDA approved school lunches. Tips are generally; create active lifestyles and healthy eating habits in and out of school.
The USDA proposed a Prescription for Change: Ten Keys to Promote Healthy Eating in Schools. These propositions concern students, parents, educators and food service staff. All will be involved in assessing the school s eating environment; integrate behavior focused nutrition education from pre K thru 12th grades; and food sold in addition to school lunches will be from the five major food groups.
There is no quick fix to child or adult obesity. Many doctors, nutritionists and dietitians believe this is an epidemic that needs to be addressed at the root at home and school.
American Obesity Association. (2002). American Obesity Association Childhood Obesity. Retrieved August 14, 2006, from http://www.obesity.org/subs/childhood/
(September, 2004). Childhood obesity in the united states: Facts and figures. Preventing Childhood Obesity:Health in the Balance, Retrieved August 14, 2006, from http://www.iom.edu/Object.File/Master/22/606/FINALfactsandfigures2.pdf
Hitti, M. (2006). Child Obesity: 8 Red Flags to Watch For. WebMD, Inc. Retrieved August 14, 2006, from http://www.webmd.com/content/article/106/108102.htm
Sather, J. (2006). TV: How Much Is Too Much? MSN Encarta . Microsoft. Retrieved August 14, 2..6, from http://encarta.msn.com/encnet/departments/elementary/default.aspx?article=toomuchtv
Torgan, P. C. (2002, June). Childhood Obesity, June 2002 Word on Health National Institutes of Health (NIH). National Institutes of Health. Retrieved August 14, 2006, from http://www.nih.gov/news/WordonHealth/jun2002/childhoodobesity.htm
(2000, March). Type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents. Diabetes Care, 23, Retrieved August 14, 2006, from http://care.diabetesjournals.org/cgi/reprint/23/3/381.pdf